Exploring The Small-Town Charms of New Brunswick’s Bay of Fundy
St. Andrews is one of Canada's oldest towns. Photo: Josephine Matyas.
Two travellers, one dog and a 2006 Roadtrek camper van: Josephine Matyas and Craig Jones hit the road to explore New Brunswick’s Bay of Fundy.
The community of St. Andrews by-the-Sea hugs the coastline at Passamaquoddy Bay in southwest New Brunswick. Famous as an early shipbuilding centre, the town soon found fortune as a seaside resort, where visitors discovered a restful pace of life and a haven for rejuvenation. The clean air and celebrated cure-all salt water baths were believed to have healing properties—a claim that drew many deep-pocketed tourists from both sides of the border.
As one of Canada’s oldest towns, tiny St. Andrews is famous for its well-preserved, historic side streets. Almost half the buildings in the original Town Plat are more than a century old, and several top the two-hundred-year mark. Established just on the edge of the colonies, the main streets are named after the King’s family (including his 15 children!). History is written on the street signs.
Those deep-pocketed tourists have long been coming to The Algonquin—nicknamed the “Castle by the Sea”—perched atop the hill with a fantastic view of the village and both coasts of the peninsula. The grand hotel has hosted famous and powerful guests, including the Rockefellers, many Canadian prime ministers and members of the British royal family. There is no bad meal here—even our afternoon snack of Algonquin Seafood Chowder (loaded with haddock, salmon, clams, shrimp, mussels and lobster) and Lobster Grilled Cheese (grilled Texas toast filled with cheddar cheese, peameal bacon and lobster salad) surpassed expectations.
These days, guests come for the grand hotel, St. Andrews’ calm oceanside setting, whale watching, the celebrated Algonquin Golf Course (recently redesigned by golf architect Rod Whitman) and Kingsbrae Garden, an award-winning, aromatic showcase of gardening styles with more than 50,000 perennials divided into themed sections including children’s mazes, walking paths, rose garden and an herb garden.
Right next door to the gardens we discovered another St. Andrews treasure, the historic Kingsbrae Arms, a gracious award winning property with bedrooms and suites renovated to luxury standards. Inside, rooms have been meticulously restored and decorated in an eclectic style, including artwork and furnishings imported from the Far East. Steps from the back patio, the inn’s flowerbeds could almost be an extension of its famous botanical neighbour. We found bliss sitting back with the house cocktail, a Kingsbrae Fizz, served with a spear of fresh raspberries and blackberries.
Tearing ourselves away from St. Andrews was a challenge. But the promise of a scenic coastal drive along the hills, forests and coastline of the Bay of Fundy’s north shore was irresistible.
If there is a way to escape the tidal pull of Fundy National Park, we did not find it. There is no better stretch of coastline to see the power of the Moon’s gravity as the ocean water rises and falls twice a day. It’s part of what makes this region the UNESCO Fundy Biosphere Reserve.
In the neighbouring hamlet of Alma (“population 213” states the hand-scribbled sign at the general store) the fishing vessels might be sitting on the bottom of the ocean floor or bobbing in the current, depending on the tide schedule.